Children In Tanzania In 2016, estimates determined that three out of every four children in Tanzania experience poverty or are underprivileged. This means that most children in Tanzania do not experience high-quality living conditions. For example, children in Tanzania frequently lack access to healthcare, education and basic necessities such as food, water and shelter. They may also experience domestic violence.

Of adolescents, the age group hit the hardest are those aged 5-13. In this age group, 73% of children experience deprivation in three or more dimensions. Dimensions are categories that classify different types of poverty. These dimensions are sanitation, protection, housing and education. Poor access to sanitation affects this age group the most (77%) followed by limited protection, housing and education, all lying in the high 60% range.

The Future Stars Academy (FSA)

Future Stars Academy (FSA) is a nonprofit organization that began in 2009 and works out of Arusha, Tanzania. In 2019, the organization had 200 members and saw its members’ school attendance increase by 15%. FSA prioritizes education with the understanding that education is a way out of poverty.

FSA makes an impact by combining a passion for sports with a strict education policy. Education is one of the most important factors in ending global poverty. Education leads to outcomes that positively impact poverty. Some of these outcomes include economic growth, lower income inequality, reduced infant and maternal deaths, decreased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and reduced violence at home and in society.

Many people all over the world support and participate in soccer, sometimes referred to as football. For FSA, soccer is a way for underprivileged children to develop mentally and physically, giving them the opportunity to live sustainable and healthy lives. The organization believes that soccer can inspire underprivileged children and help them develop into productive citizens with the opportunity to escape poverty. The organization focuses on three core activities: training, education and competition. It works with children aged 6-20, targeting the age group hit hardest by child poverty.

FSA gives youth the opportunity to refine their soccer skills and compete competitively at a certain level. This gives children something to strive for and encourages healthy lifestyles in order for participants to succeed in the sport. Coaches at FSA use the children’s passion for soccer to hone in on other important life skills and values such as teamwork, dedication, discipline and confidence.

FSA’s Success

For FSA, the combination of fun and education has, so far, been successful. The policy of “No school – No play” keeps children in Tanzania on track to progressing toward a better life. The FSA has provided dozens of senior players with the opportunity to play for top tier soccer teams or earn coaching positions where they then have the ability to help children in similar situations.

Education is an extremely important tool for reducing rates of poverty in Tanzania. Many organizations, such as UNICEF, believe that instilling education at a young age is the most effective way for it to be a tool in helping underprivileged children escape poverty. FSA is one of many organizations working to promote the importance of education for children in Tanzania.

– Haleigh Kierman
Photo: Flickr

Surf tourism in El Salvador
Many know El Salvador for its beautiful beaches and surfable waves. However, gang violence also makes the country the deadliest non-war zone in the world. Bryan Perez grew up in Punta Roca, El Salvador, where he began surfing at a young age. The sport helped him escape gang life, and he became a four-time World Cup champion. Perez’s success story increased surf tourism in El Salvador and gave Salvadorans hope of a better life.

Gang Culture in El Salvador

In 2019, approximately 23% of El Salvador’s population lived in poverty, and an estimated 8% had a connection to gangs. Salvadoran gangs have traditions and sadistic rites of passage, and they often socialize children into them at a young age. A person who refuses to support a gang risks torture or murder.

Surf Tourism

The beaches of El Salvador were what drew nearly 38% of the 350,000 Americans who visited the country in 2015. El Salvador nonprofits such as La Red Foundation use surf tourism to help impoverished communities.

Salvador Castellanos established La Red Foundation to show that surfing can be an alternative to gang life. He has recruited more than 1,500 volunteers to run surf camps, provide food and install infrastructure in poverty-stricken communities. Overall, La Red Foundation has used surf tourism to provide resources for more than 3,000 people. In exchange for volunteers’ efforts, La Red Foundation gives them amazing surf opportunities on El Salvador’s best beaches.

Salvador Castellanos’s son, Marcelo Castellanos, established El Salvador’s first professional surfing academy, Puro Surf. Puro Surf provides top-notch surfing training in a safe environment, and it helped a young Bryan Perez escape gang life.

Star Surfer Bryan Perez

As a child, Bryan Perez supported his family by watching tourists’ cars while they surfed, and he used his earnings to negotiate truces with local gangs. After receiving a broken surfboard from a tourist at age nine, Perez discovered his love for surfing. By the time he was a teenager, Perez had become highly dedicated to the sport.

Perez temporarily lost his passion for surfing after his little sister died from gang violence in 2014. Reflecting on that year, Perez said, “I was so depressed it was hard to get surfing again. I didn’t have the energy to compete and get focused.” Nevertheless, Marcelo Castellanos took Perez in and helped him rediscover his motivation. Perez trained intensively at Puro Surf Academy, where Castellanos helped him gain sponsors and surf in international competitions. Once Perez began surfing internationally, he became one of El Salvador’s most famous athletes. Because of his likable personality and strong media presence, the country closely followed his performances.

Hope for the Future

Perez failed to qualify for the Olympics at the 2021 World Surfing Games in El Salvador. However, his escape from gang life demonstrated how the capitalization of surfing can change lives. Perez became an inspirational figure and role model for Salvadorans living in poverty.

Perez’s international fame also put El Salvador on the map as a top surfing spot. The country’s leader, President Nayib Bukele, is working to decrease gang violence by capitalizing on surf tourism in El Salvador. He promoted the 2021 World Surfing Games because according to the Salvadoran government, surf tourism will create an estimated 50,000 jobs and has already created 200 businesses. With additional job opportunities, citizens can escape gang life.

Surf tourism in El Salvador increases the quality of life by boosting the economy and giving hope to a poverty-stricken nation. Despite the continued struggle against gang culture, both nonprofits and the government are advocating for a better future in El Salvador.

Abby Adu
Photo: Flickr

How UEFA Foundation is Fighting Child Poverty in HaitiThe UEFA Foundation, the governing European football association, has been instrumental in child development within the expanding country of Haiti. The UEFA Foundation has joined forces with the Goals Organization, a nonprofit that focuses on using football as a means to engage youth in Haiti. Together, they have teamed up to try and establish better health education, climate action, leadership activity, education and community service in Haiti through their joint child development program. The UEFA Foundation has donated more than 200,00 euros for the program this year. Together, UEFA Foundation and the Goals Organization are working to fight against child poverty in Haiti by improving children’s development.

The Haiti Humanitarian Crisis

The Caribbean island of Haiti has suffered a tumultuous 21st century, with a history of natural disasters, health crises and overall poverty that have impeded many from improving their living conditions. Most recently, the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 was a devastating event that resulted in more than 200,000 deaths. Rebuilding has been an ongoing process that has lacked the investment needed for Haiti to reach stable economical levels and fight child poverty in Haiti.

In a recent study from the Human Development Index, Haiti was ranked 170 out of 189 countries in terms of per capita income, the worst in the Western Hemisphere. The country has one of the world’s worst infant and maternal mortality rates. Additionally, within that same study, it was found that a child from Haiti would face a 45% of productive life due to incident educational, medical resources.

With 60% of the population living in poverty and with an increase in unstable weather conditions, Haiti has become one of the most challenging countries for young children to grow up in.

How Sport Helps At-risk Children

Sports have long proven to be beneficial in a young child’s development, from improving their social skills and sense of community to physical and cognitive growth. It has been showcased that vital childhood interaction between peers creates a bridge of communication from which children can expand their lives. As such, organized sport dictates a significant part in the fight against child poverty in Haiti and all over the world.

A recent study from Stanford Children Health showed the overall benefits that competitive and organized sports could have on children. Some of those benefits include better heart, eye and lung health, combined with a strong social and self-awareness development.

Another study from the Aspen Project emphasized how important organized sports are to a child’s development. The findings included a study conducted by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and showcased a 1.8% decrease in obesity when children participate in afterschool activities and sports and an increase in immunity against 13 different cancers. Additionally, the benefits are not merely physical. There is a direct correlation between physical experience and enhanced academic behavior, according to the GAO. Neurologically, a child’s brain is more active when there is also physical activity.

Mental wellness has also risen as a major factor in recent years. Many Haitian children have suffered from difficult circumstances, which may have affected their mental health, but recent studies, like a 2020 study from The New York Times, showcase how children lacking the means for subsistence are two times more likely to report feelings of depression.

Team GOALS and The UEFA Foundation

The Team GOALS organization has partnered with the UEFA Foundation to construct an expanding soccer program that has been given the green light in 2021. As the major governing football body in Europe, UEFA established the UEFA Foundation to team up with local organizations and fight against poverty and overall oppression. This foundation creates an opportunity that many young Haitian students lack. The construction of youth soccer facilities combined with educational teaching is the springboard that the UEFA Foundation hopes can create a change in Haiti.

The UEFA Foundation has supported fundraising for this new initiative with more than 200,000 euros. The program aims to establish a community center that focuses on football as the starting point to growth. This community football center would focus on several different football-related objectives. The football initiative would also include classroom lessons on gender equality in sport, conflict resolution, rural sport and an increased initiative in exercising.

The results are expected to be very good news for the future of Haiti. The projections from the UEFA Foundation include results such as reducing pregnancy rates from 7% to 1%, engaging in physical activity for nine out of 10 children for the first time and providing nutrition and health services to children in need.

The Team GOALS organization also expects a significant increase in trees planted, six youth-led community projects and 35 literacy instruction graduates, with an additional 25 of those children receiving scholarships. Overall, the partner organizations are expecting to create a massive shift in educational, physical and financial development for the Haitian youth.

Conclusion

Young Haitian children in the modern era have struggled to find a foothold within a stable economic and healthy environment. When there are countries around the world with a surplus of economic and health resources, children who have only ever seen financial and medical struggle should be given a chance to succeed. The Team GOALS and the UEFA Foundation have created an excellent avenue for the new generation of Haitian children to learn and have a shot at succeeding in the mental, financial and physical aspects of their lives.

Mario Perales
Photo: Flickr

UEFA and UNHCR PartnershipThe Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is the organization that governs football or soccer throughout the entirety of Europe. UEFA is made of multiple football associations spread across Europe and acts as a representative democracy for these associations. Among the many functions of the UEFA is the promotion of football as a tool to bring forth unity, protection of European football values and maintenance of excellent governance in European football. However, the UEFA has participated in other types of work beyond professional football. UEFA has also partnered with the United Nations High Council of Refugees (UNHCR). The UEFA and UNHCR partnership will benefit refugees forcibly displaced by war and conflict.

The UEFA Foundation for Children

Before the UEFA and UNHCR partnership began, UEFA had long worked to help child refugees with its Foundation for Children. The purpose of this organization is to improve the living conditions of child refugees. UEFA achieves this by supporting several socio-economic and sports projects. The UEFA Foundation for Children notes the negative impacts that war and conflict have on child refugees. It aims to play a part in addressing this.

By participating in sport, children learn essential life skills and values such as “respect, team spirit, diligence, courtesy and personal commitment.” These skills help prepare them for their futures, socially and professionally. Sports also allow a form of healing from the traumas that child refugees might have developed from the crises they live through. UEFA Foundation for Children has run several sports projects across the world. Among them is the Child Safeguarding Certification Programme for Sport-for-Good Practitioners in Europe. The purpose of the project is to train sports practitioners on the fundamental rights of children and how to go about protecting vulnerable populations such as child refugees.

The UEFA and UNHCR Partnership

On May 21, 2021, UEFA and the UNHCR brought their partnership to fruition by signing a “Cooperation Protocol to support refugee access to sport and enhance social inclusion.” The two organizations commit to long-term programs to support refugees and displaced individuals “by harnessing the transformative power of football to assist and uphold their rights and strengthen their integration in their host communities.”

To deliver on these commitments, UEFA member associations on the ground and UNHCR offices throughout Europe will provide support to one another. U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees Filippo Grandi commented on the partnership. He said that wherever his UNHCR travels take him in the world, he sees how football has the ability to unite people. Grandi states further, “Sport provides an opportunity for refugee children and youth to be included — it also has the transformative power to rebuild lives and inspire positive values.” Aleksander Čeferin, UEFA president, asserts that football fosters social inclusion and helps refugees better integrate into society.

The UEFA and UNHCR partnership has just started. As a result, the impact of the collaboration between the two is yet to be seen. However, both UEFA and the UNHCR devote a significant amount of effort to the well-being of refugees, which makes for a perfect team.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

The Sports Bra Project In many countries, sports bras are often overlooked as a basic necessity and are deemed a luxury. Sports bras are either hard to come by or oftentimes put at the end of the list when it comes to expenses. Due to the inaccessibility and high expense of sports bras, Sarah Dwyer-Shick created the Sports Bra Project. The Sports Bra Project recognizes that a lack of sports bras presents a barrier to female participation in sports, limiting opportunities for inclusion. With more women engaged in sports, more women are empowered and open to possible athletic careers that present a pathway out of poverty.

What is the Sports Bra Project?

Dwyer-Shick founded the Sports Bra Project in 2018 when she discovered the need for sports bras in Namibia, Africa. Originally, she brought a few sports bras to local women participating in youth soccer. She then discovered that even players on the Namibian National Women’s Soccer Team did not have access to sports bras. Dwyer-Shick realized the greater need for sports bras all around Africa, not just Namibia. From this revelation, the nonprofit was born.

The Sports Bra Project provides sports bras to people in 26 different countries. The organization collects sports bras and distributes them to partner organizations, many of which are located in Africa. Through these efforts, the project helps female athletes overcome one of the main barriers to participation in sports — proper attire. Without the needed clothing, many people are hesitant to join in sports. For those who do join, improper athletic clothing hinders their performance and can even lead to pain or injuries.

The Sports Bra Project has already collected more than 4,500 sports bras for athletes in need. Even ordinary individuals can contribute to the cause by donating sports bras and setting up collection campaigns. More than 50 soccer teams in the United States have held sports bra drives to collect sports bras for those in need all over the world. The nonprofit also allows handwritten notes to be attached to the bras to make donations more personal.

How Sports Bras Help Poverty

The Sports Bra Project was set up because something as simple as an article of clothing can provide countless opportunities to young girls and women around the world. Although sports bras seem like an added expense, sports bras can decrease poverty.

Sports bras address the gap between males and females in sports, which has a catalyst effect. Sports activities keep children off the streets, provide a possible career path and provide a healing outlet for those who have experienced trauma. Regardless of the reasoning behind participation, sports foster important traits that ensure a brighter future for participants. “Teamwork, leadership and confidence” are among these traits.

Sports bras decrease poverty by reducing the gender gap in sports while uplifting and empowering females with valuable skills that go beyond the sports arena. Proper clothing encourages women to participate in sports and empowers women to step into arenas typically dominated by males. By reducing the gender gap and supporting females to develop careers in sports, women are empowered to rise out of poverty.

– Maddie Rhodes
Photo: Flickr

Soccer to Combat Poverty
A 5-year-old boy named Alex* stood on the dirt patch in San Pedro, Belize, and punched a fellow soccer player. He had caused a lot of fights in the previous weeks. Katherine Lord, a volunteer with More Than Fútbol, pulled him aside. Lord had just begun running a soccer extracurricular program for The Holy Cross School, the poorest school in Ambergris Caye. She explained to him that the school would not tolerate violence at practice. She told him that he was a natural leader, so if he chose not to fight anymore, he could be team captain. In just a few weeks, Alex began helping her run drills, organize his teammates and even break up fights. For Alex, this after-school soccer program offered a safe space to play and have fun. For years, More than Fútbol has been effectively using soccer to combat poverty in Belize.

More Than Fútbol

Founded by Ali Andrzejewski in 2008, More Than Fútbol is using soccer to combat poverty in Belize. Every year, the organization sends volunteers to San Pedro, Belize for a few weeks. After these few weeks, everyone but one volunteer returns home. This volunteer runs the soccer program and teaches empowerment classes at The Holy Cross School. More Than Fútbol also works in Nicaragua.

In spring 2018, Lord volunteered to stay in San Pedro for five months. She volunteered with More Than Fútbol for four years prior to living in Belize. While there, she taught empowerment, English and math classes and ran the after-school soccer program.

Child Poverty in Belize

In Belize, 58% of children live in poverty. UNICEF estimates that 60% of children do not have access to at least one of proper drinking water, sanitation, housing, nutrition or education. One study from UNICEF found that 19% of children in Belize experience growth stunting due to poverty and 27% of schools do not have clean water.

Poverty in San Pedro, a town in Ambergris Caye, is a serious problem. Many students, like Alex, who attend The Holy Cross School do not have access to electricity or running water at home. Sewage and trash line the streets so acutely that wood boards must cover the roads so that no one steps in the waste. Despite the fact that Ambergris Caye generates about 18% of the country’s GDP from tourism, the island does not receive most of this money. This makes the residents unable to escape poverty.

The Link Between Poverty, Stress and Violence

Poverty, stress and violence all correlate. Children in poverty are seven times more likely to self-harm and become involved in violence. According to the American Psychological Association, “poorer children and teens are… at greater risk for several negative outcomes such as poor academic achievement, school dropout, abuse and neglect, behavioral and socioemotional problems, physical health problems, and developmental delays.” Children in poverty are more likely to have emotional or behavioral concerns such as anxiety, depression, aggression, conduct disorder, difficulty getting along with others and self-esteem issues. Children in poverty are also more likely to experience violence from a young age, which predisposes them to violent behaviors in the future. Parents living in poverty may also experience chronic stress or depression, which can cause them to parent in more severe ways, leading to worse socioemotional outcomes for children.

In Belize, estimates determined that 65% of children (ages 1-14) experience physical and psychological abuse or aggression at home. The Holy Cross School estimates that 90% of the children attending experience abuse from caregivers either physically, psychologically or sexually. Lord explained to The Borgen Project that “there’s a lot of fighting, especially among lower-income people. And it’s just because that’s how kids are treated by their parents. And it’s… I don’t want to say cultural– maybe systematic…. And so the kids would always be… fist fighting with each other and throwing rocks at each other.”

How Sports Can Reduce Stress and Fight Against Poverty

Despite the fact that the children often fought, Lord realized that soccer helped lower their aggression, improve their behaviors and their levels of happiness. Her first-hand experience influenced her to believe in the power of using soccer to combat poverty in Belize. The World Bank has found that empirically speaking, sports can help increase educational outcomes, empower players and encourage leadership. Playing sports can also alleviate anger and frustration and promote happiness.

Furthermore, sports can positively impact children’s development and goal-making. According to the University of Edinburgh, sports “matter because they are proven to boost educational capability, confidence, mental health and other learning skills that help not just education levels but working and social lives.” Sports can also benefit international development.

Other Organizations

Lord’s experience volunteering with More Than Fútbol is unique. However, there are many other organizations working to combat poverty in Belize and other parts of the world through soccer. For example, Street Football World works to empower communities and build soccer programs and stadiums. Love Futbol finances stadiums and supports the surrounding community. The work of these organizations is invaluable because sports can help empower children emotionally and socially. Like Katherine expressed to The Borgen Project, no matter the environment the kids come from, allowing them a space to grow and feel safe and supported can positively impact their moods, behaviors and self-confidence. Overall, it is clear that using sports to combat poverty in Belize is crucial because they can change children’s lives for the better and act as a source of international development.

* Name of Alex changed for privacy

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

sports in mexico
The nation of Mexico is well-known for its tacos and tequila, but less known for its staggering poverty rates and rising obesity cases. The Mexican State of Jalisco has a poverty rate of 41%; nearly half of the population lives without basic nutrition and suffers from the violence and theft of local drug cartels. Children raised in the vicious cycle of generational poverty suffer the most. Sports can provide a refuge for these children growing up surrounded by violence and hardship. Organized sports in Mexico provide children with the safety to build confidence and essential life skills that can help end cyclical poverty.

Sports Address Health Concerns

According to Mexico’s national social development board in May 2020, half of all Mexican children ages five through 14 hadn’t engaged in physical exercise for at least a year. The lack of physical activities and available sports contributes to Mexico’s climbing obesity rate, which neared 30% as of early 2020.

Malnutrition is typically equated with being underweight, but overweight children in poverty are also victims of malnutrition. In both instances, the child’s brain remains underdeveloped and cannot reach its full potential. Without proper nutrients, it is increasingly difficult for children to retain information and benefit from education.

The Social Significance of Sports

An aspect of poverty often overlooked is the lack of opportunity that children have to build and practice social skills. Sports in Mexico provide a safe space for children to play, socialize and build friendships without the threat of theft and violence that lurk on the streets.

Often played casually without referees, sports in Mexico frequently result in a conversation or reflection post-game. These discussions often revolve around gender equality, teamwork, perseverance, diversity or cooperation. Such discussions exemplify how the universal language of sports can help people find common ground and grow together.

Organizations Creating Space for Sports

Organized sports in Mexico offer a haven for children trying to avoid violence. Exercise and engagement in a stimulating social environment provide further benefits for their future. Thanks to the efforts of Children International, there are five community centers in the capital of Jalisco. These community centers provide protected spaces where children can read, use computers, play sports and learn about healthy eating habits.

At the beginning of 2020, the UEFA Foundation for Children collaborated with the Fundación del Empresariado Chihuahuense (FECHAC) to open and run 88 schools that offer an opportunity for children to get involved in sports. The organizations hope to increase that number of schools to more than 100 in the next two years.

The Sports for Sharing initiative, or Deportes para Compartir, aims to teach children healthy lifestyles while also introducing cultural diversity and social issues. The initiative has reached more than 63,000 young Mexicans across the country and aims to expand internationally. The program empowers girls who are playing sports for the first time and reduces street violence by providing sports outlets for young men.

The physical and social rewards that children gain from sports in Mexico cannot be overstated. In addition to health and social benefits, playing sports acts as an escape for children leading difficult lives in poverty. It allows children to feel normal, forget the harshness of their world and imagine a better life for themselves. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations make increasing opportunities for children’s sports in Mexico a priority.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Pixabay

Tegla LoroupeAt the 1994 New York City Marathon, Tegla Loroupe of Kenya made history as the first African woman to win a major marathon title. For years, African men had great success over the distance and now a female compatriot could share in the glory. Loroupe has won several major world marathons and broken world records. Loroupe has since retired from professional running and has involved herself in supporting peace, prosperity and economic advancement in Kenya and across Africa.

The Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation

Loroupe says that she grew up surrounded by conflict. All around her, she saw violence at the hands of warring tribes in Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia. In these regions, many tribes depend upon livestock farming to stay afloat. However, resources like food and water can be scarce. This leads to violence among the tribes and what people know as rustling: the stealing of cattle. Many tribes resort to the use of force as they otherwise risk falling into severe poverty.

In 2003, Loroupe founded the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation (TLPF). She wanted an end to the conflict between the tribes and sought peace through sports. Loroupe based the foundation on three pillars: peacebuilding, education and supporting refugee athletes.

Tegla Loroupe Peace Race

A hallmark of the TLPF is the Tegla Loroupe Peace Race, a 10-kilometer run that hosts runners from warring tribes. They put their weapons down to compete in this race and build stronger relations with the goal of ultimately preventing further violence.

Loroupe says that the Peace Race had strong effects within just a few years. Deaths from fighting between tribes drastically reduced and people have reached a better understanding of one another. Further, many warriors surrendered their weapons for the sake of peace.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, professional soccer player, Lucky Mkosana of Zimbabwe, agreed that “sports definitely contribute a significant amount to world peace.” He highlighted how athletic competition creates positive exposure to other cultures and fosters “an environment where people can learn” about those from outside groups.

Growing up in Zimbabwe, Mkosana understands well that children having outlets like sports can open them up to opportunities. He is a founder of the BYS Academy, a soccer school for vulnerable youth in his hometown of Plumtree, Zimbabwe.

The Importance of Education

Another arm of the TLPF is the Tegla Loroupe Education and Peace School (TLE&PC). Here, children receive the opportunity to learn after experiencing displacement due to conflict. The school also acts as an orphanage for its students, giving them a safe place to call home.

As of early 2020, the school had 460 students and Loroupe hopes to eventually increase enrollment to 1,000 students. Recognizing the importance of a good education, Loroupe wants to ensure that all students have access to a good learning environment. Mkosana said that “talent is spread evenly but resources are not.” Loroupe’s academy makes an effort to provide resources to all.

Loroupe also says that improved access to learning can help reduce violence. Education creates opportunity, and without one, people do what they feel they must do in order to survive. With schooling, this need not be the case. People can create livelihoods for themselves and live without violence.

Heading the Refugee Olympic Team

More recently, Loroupe once again became the leader of the Refugee Olympic Team for the Tokyo Olympics. The Refugee Olympic Team first appeared in the 2016 Rio Olympics, which Loroupe also led.

Loroupe had experience working with refugee athletes at the TLPF so she was a clear choice to head the refugee team at the Olympics. The 2016 team comprised of 10 athletes, who Loroupe says, “reminded the world of the sufferings and perseverance of millions of refugees around the world.”

It was also important for refugees to see that these athletes were able to find success. There was hope for them and they can achieve their dreams just as the members of the Refugee Olympic Team had.

Looking Forward

Loroupe’s promotion of peace through sport through the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation has changed much in Kenya since its inception. Warriors are laying down their arms and children are obtaining educational opportunities. The story of the TLPF is a developing one, but from what it has accomplished so far, peace in Kenya is extending further than ever before.

Evan Driscoll
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The NBA in AfricaThe National Basketball Association (NBA) is known as one of the best leading professional basketball leagues to ever exist. With 30 franchises across North America, the NBA has a large following and media presence with fans and supporters from all around the globe. The top NBA players have lucrative careers that many young people dream of achieving. However, this dream has always seemed out of reach for young people in Africa. Many who play basketball in Africa are unsure of how to pursue a successful athletic career, may lack the access to adequate training and coaching and may not even be aware of the possibility. The NBA has partnered with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to create the Basketball Africa League (BAL), the first official league outside of North America. The NBA in Africa could be a complete game-changer, opening up possibilities and positively impacting Africa’s economy.

The Basketball Africa League

Though the BAL is the first NBA league in Africa, it is certainly not the NBA’s first interaction with the continent. Basketball Without Borders (BWB), also in collaboration with FIBA, is an international basketball camp that unites youth from Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa in order to promote the sport and encourage social change. The top youth players train under NBA players and coaches. Life skills training is also provided. It focuses on the importance of education, leadership, development and health. The participation of young women is important to NBA Africa, allowing them opportunities that were never an option before. In 2019, BWB hosted its 17th event in Africa. BWB is much more than just basketball, it helps players develop important life skills that they can take forward.

The NBA Academy Africa

The NBA’s activity in Africa does not end at the BWB. The NBA Academy is an elite basketball initiative meant to provide high schoolers outside of the U.S with holistic training development. There are six academies across Australia, China, India, Mexico and Africa (Senegal). The Senegal center opened in 2018 and is the primary training location for NBA Academy Africa prospects. The NBA Academy’s holistic approach includes a focus on education. These young people either attend a local public school or receive a scholarship to a local private school. They also receive additional academic support.

In December 2019, the BAL announced the host cities of Cairo (Egypt), Dakar (Senegal), Lagos (Nigeria), Luanda (Angola), Rabat (Morocco) and Monastir (Tunisia). The NBA will host games in these cities and build infrastructure. Rwanda will also host BAL Finals. These games started in 2020 but COVID-19 postponed further events.

Benefits of the NBA Africa

Dikembe Mutombo, a former Congolese-American NBA player, expressed his gratitude and excitement for the BAL. Mutombo was a rare case of an African making it to the NBA. He knows that for many children in Africa, the prospect is out of reach. Masai Ujiri, a Nigerian-Canadian former professional basketball player who is now president of the Toronto Raptors, expressed that the BAL will also allow for new opportunities of employment and revenue in Africa.

Africa’s population is predicted to double by 2050. Accordingly, the NBA in Africa is an especially important part of the development and dreams of the new generations to come. The NBA in Africa will create jobs, revenue and stimulate the economy. The NBA is thus contributing to the alleviation of poverty in Africa.

Grace Wang
Photo: Flickr

Empower Indigenous WomenAt the dawn of the 21st century, women entered the world of Bolivian professional wrestling for the first time. Known as the Flying Cholitas, this group is made up entirely of indigenous women from the city of El Alto. Encapsulating the revolutionary spirit of El Alto, the Flying Cholitas act as positive role models who empower indigenous women.

The City of El Alto

El Alto is the largest city in Latin America with an indigenous majority population. Throughout Bolivia’s history, El Alto and its cholitas have been known for their revolutionary spirit. The term “cholita” is derived from “chola,” a phrase used to refer to indigenous or mixed-race women in a derogatory manner. The word “cholita” is now used in a positive light when referring to indigenous women throughout Bolivia.

El Alto, situated on a mountain overlooking Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, laid siege to it in the 1700s. It did so again in 2003, during the Bolivian Gas War, which led to the ousting of then-president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. Afterward, the support of El Alto’s indigenous population saw the first indigenous president, Evo Morales, elected in 2005.

The indigenous population of Bolivia has fallen victim to various forms of institutionalized racism throughout history. They have been denied various civic services, such as the right to vote and the chance at higher education. However, during his time in office, Evo Morales opened government positions to cholitas. As a result, the indigenous women were enabled to play a role in drafting the new constitution. The Flying Cholitas empower indigenous women by embodying this revolutionary spirit of the everyday cholita, making them quite popular.

What is Cholita Wrestling?

When The Flying Cholitas first formed, they served as a novelty act to increase ticket sales for the male-dominated “Titans of the Ring.” Both the male and female acts draw heavily from Mexico’s professional wrestling, known as “lucha libre.” The use of signature moves, entrance music and the hero versus villain dynamic — known as “técnicas” and “rudas,” in this case — display the influence of this format. Fans often join in the fun by jeering and splashing water on “rudas” and cheering for the “técnicas.”

The uniqueness of the cholitas helps attract sizable crowds. The wrestlers’ clothing noticeably deviates from that of “lucha libre” and other professional wrestling formats. Instead of bikinis and spandex, The Flying Cholitas wear clothes similar to ones they wear in the streets and at home. In the ring, the wrestlers will commonly wear bowler hats, long braids, shawls and pleated skirts. Cholitas display these garments to show pride in their heritage and distinguish themselves from the pants-wearing, non-indigenous women.

To become a female wrestler, candidates must undergo a year of training before receiving their certificate. In addition to allowing them to fight, the certificate is a symbol of pride: proof that they can earn money through skill and hard work.

Gender in Bolivia

Bolivia has the highest rate of domestic and sexual abuse in Latin America. In 2015, 70% of women reported having faced some form of physical or psychological abuse. The lack of financial opportunities for women often causes them to stay in these harmful relationships.

The original Flying Cholitas were abuse victims who joined the sport as an outlet for their anger. Now, these wrestlers empower indigenous women in similar situations. The wrestling matches provide a public space to witness the strength of women, especially in mixed matches where women battle men. However, the cholitas had to fight outside of the ring as well to gain more equality in the sport.

When the Flying Cholitas first started wrestling, they were unpaid and barred from using the locker room. As their popularity grew, the female wrestlers gained greater autonomy. They formed the Association for Fighting Cholitas. This allows them to organize their fights and use the facilities. Furthermore, the Flying Cholitas are now paid for their work, around $20-$25 per match. This extra income helps the wrestlers put their children through school and grants them greater freedom from their husbands.

After 20 years, the popularity of the Flying Cholitas has spread, with hotels in the area offering packages that include tickets and transit to their shows. The Flying Cholitas even travel throughout Bolivia to bring their rowdy fights to the masses and empower indigenous women across the nation.

Overall, the Flying Cholitas are a powerful influence in changing the perception of indigenous women in Bolivia. Hopefully, this group will continue to have a significant impact in the coming years.

– Riley Behlke
Photo: Flickr